I love Rope. I caught the very end of it a few nights back on TCM, just in time for James Stewart’s “By what right do you dare to say that there’s a superior few to which you belong? By what right did you decide that that boy in there was inferior and could be killed? Did you think you were God, Brandon? Is that what you thought when you choked the life out of him? Is that what you thought when you served food from his grave?! I don’t know who you are but I know what you did. You murdered! You choked the life out of a fellow human being who could live and love as you never could, and never will again!”
It made me think of Philip K. Dick’s “The Android and the Human” in which he says “The reduction of humans to mere use—men made into machines, serving a purpose that although “good” in the abstract sense has, for its accomplishment, employed what I regard as the greatest evil imaginable: the placing on what was a free man who laughed and cried and made mistakes and wandered into foolishness and play a restriction that limits him, despite what he may imagine or think, to the fulfilling of an aim outside of his own personal—however puny—destiny.”
Which made me think of Jude the Obscure and Jude’s life, which we are told is unnecessary: He could scarcely bear to see trees cut down or lopped, from a fancy that it hurt them; and late pruning, when the sap was up and the tree bled profusely, had been a positive grief to him in his infancy. This weakness of character, as it may be called, suggested that he was the sort man who was born to ache a good deal before the fall of the curtain upon his unnecessary life should signify that all was well with him again. (17)
All this made me think about my life, and my daughter’s life, and how in our post-Darwinian world there is some practical consensus that certain lives are simply not necessary to reality—the totality of things that exist necessarily. Who decides which certain lives do not comprise our reality? We do not want to think of them. Why do certain lives matter less? We do not want to think of them.
Maybe this is the state of Jude, precarious as it is, he is the talisman, as it were, of the “coming universal wish to die” (336). Whose death do we wish for?
In Hardy’s book of contrasts if there is an innate desire for survival, there is also an innate desire for destruction, what Freud would eventually call “thanatos.” This reduction of humans to “use”—to what is necessary—is then a reduction of human nature to android nature, or to what we as readers could equate with an android nature that emphasizes existence over essence.
Are we too menny?
When we suffer is it b/c our essence and existence are not in sync? Is the nature of suffering this: one’s inability to be the individual of their essence. What/who is tragic?
I am lead to this question: what is the relationship between suffering and survival? On suffering and survival, Dick wrote: He has not survived it; this shows on his face. She has. In some way they have experienced it together, but they have come out of it differently. It was too much for him; it destroyed him. Perhaps this information to be gained here is t realize how much greater capacity a woman has for suffering; that is, not that she suffers more than a man but that she can endure where he can’t. Survival of the species lies in her ability to do this, not his. (“The Android and the Human” 202)
Dick describes the ability to withstand suffering as a necessary factor in survival; one could say that the “fittest” have a great capacity for suffering. Furthermore, in Dick’s theory, survival depends more upon women to endure suffering. This is an interesting doctrine to hold up to Jude the Obscure, as the one woman who survives is Arabella. But Arabella does not, that I know of, suffer at all. In fact, she really can’t suffer because her essence and existence are not at odds.
Is Brandon’s essence in Rope requited by murdering? Does he suffer?
Are we too menny when we do not want to think of those who suffer? When we do not think of them, who is androidian?